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Jan 30, 2011 08:54 AM

W.A. Frost: an Under Rated Restaurant

W.A. Frost, in the Selby neighborhood of St. Paul, is one of the most under rated restaurants in the Twin Cities. I must confess that it had also fallen off my restaurant radar and I had not been in the habit of considering it as an option even in St. Paul which is not blessed with an over abundance of good eating establishments.

I ate there again recently with my family, after a decade long hiatus, and was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food, the ambience, and the stellar wine list. There was an interesting selection of starters that went beyond the usual suspects though in the end we opted for two salads, the winter lettuce and the house greens, which were tasty, nicely dressed and very generously proportioned; a large salad could easily be split among a party of four. For the main course, I had crispy skate, one of my favorite fish, with mashed potatoes and a saffron sauce. My wife had divers scallop with chorizo which were succulent and sweet, and our daughter had a chicken breast that she pronounced to be wonderful. The creme brulee was good though I would have preferred less egg and more cream, and the carrot cake was just as one might expect carrot cake to be.

The wine list is perhaps the best in the Twin Cities and is remarkable both for its depth and breath. There are several local restaurants that have a better line up for particular regions. For example, I Nonni, Domacin (Stillwater), and D'Amico's Kitchen have a better Italian list; La Belle Vie is stronger in wines from southern France; Manny's has a more comprehensive selection of the wines of California. However, this restaurant, which is no longer mentioned among those restaurants that are fashionable and notable, has excellent selections from France, Italy, the United States and Spain. The wines are priced fairly with many bottles in the reasonable $30-40 range. Though there are no great bargains in the mid to upper prices ranges the best values are to be had if one is willing to splurge.

How does the food at this restaurant compare with others in St.Paul? With the caveat that my opinion is based on one visit, I would put it on a par with (or perhaps minimally below) Meritage and Heartland, and it is infinitely superior to the St.Paul Grill, Kincaids, and Pazzaluna; I have not eaten at the Strip Club. The ambience is cozy and quiet but it does not have the same frisson as Meritate or the St. Paul Grill. Although W.A. Frost does not often feature in local blogs and is infrequently mentioned by foodies, its many attractions are not lost on the residents of St. Paul as the multi-room dining area was quite full during our early pre-theater dinner. This restaurant merits serious consideration from those looking for good food in St.Paul.

W.A. Frost & Co
374 Selby Avenue, St. Paul, MN 55102

La Belle Vie
510 Groveland Avenue, Minneapolis, MN 55405

360 St. Peter St, St. Paul, MN 55101

410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

I Nonni
981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

The Strip Club
378 Maria Ave, Saint Paul, MN 55106

I Nonni
981 sibley memorial hwy, Lilydale, MN 55118

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  1. I brought my associates here for a holiday lunch in December. Overall, the food was good, with a couple of nice surprises. Service was outstanding. I like W.A. Frost, but the reason I don't love it is because it is inconsistent. I stopped going altogether several years ago, when turnover and an uninspired chef made it a poor value. I have returned over the past two years, and believe they have made huge improvements. And you can't beat the ambiance.

    3 Replies
    1. re: rp1760

      Exact ditto of what rp said. Kitchen inconsistency has plagued WA Frost for the past few years, but when it's on, it's sooo on, and the ambience can't be beat when you want that quiet, cozy kind of atmosphere. I've had consistently excellent service there too.

      1. re: rp1760

        Another +1 for rp's comment. I used to go their regularly, but after a few bad experiences a few years ago, I've never set foot back in. The last was 2 summers ago, when service on the patio was so bad - not just for us, but for the tables near us too - that I swore I'd never go back. If they've upped their game again, that's great. And the space and ambiance are fantastic. But I've had more than one bad meal and bad service experience there, to the extent that, given all the other excellent options in town that can consistently deliver a high quality product, I don't feel the need to play Russian roulette with my dining experience.

        1. re: foreverhungry

          another plus one for inconsistent and overpriced. however....I do enjoy the bar in the winter.

      2. I couldn't agree more. W. A. Frost is never recognized as one of the top restaurants in the Cities, and I can't figure out why. I've been delighted every time I've gone, and some of the dishes have rated as the best I've ever had. The service and ambiance are lovely, and the whole package far outstrips favorites like Meritage. It's a mystery, but frankly, I'm happy to continue to get reservations easily, so I guess it can stay ignored, as long as it also stays in business.

        410 Saint Peter St, Saint Paul, MN 55102

        1. Well the 3 times I've had dinner there I was never impressed. Or rather, for the PRICE I was not impressed. Their food seemed very average. We've talked about it on this board before.

          I will say that I went to their patio a couple times last summer and really liked their simpler bar food. But service on the patio was hit and miss.

          1 Reply
          1. re: galewskj

            My current favorite part of Frost's is the basement lounge (below the bar). Very cozy (I suspect they just moved the patio furniture inside), and a great place for a drink with a friend.

          2. $39 Aged New York Strip. Served with oxtail potato gratin - could not have been 70 degrees at the core. Should have been taken back with apologies and something comped. The server had another gratin sent out (there were two of these cold gratins on the table).

            Aged meat theoretically has been tenderized by enzymatic action. It also should develop a more interesting flavor profile. If there's a restaurant that understands and executes dry aging please let me know the name. This was a decent steak, but didn't make up for the poor execution of the rest of the dish. The temped steaks were delivered incorrectly by a food runner. Server was nice, just didn't take sufficient corrective action.

            Plate temperature is a good indication of a professional kitchen. Cold salad plates, and warm entree plates. The entrees came on room temp plates.

            Could be a slip, but at this price level?